This week most of the Gospel readings have been from Chapter 6 of John’s Gospel. In those readings we see the later reactions of some who witnessed the miraculous feeding of 5,000 people. They were disputing even among themselves. The question they were disputing was “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (Jn 6:52) For them that idea was not only distasteful but it was against the Jewish Law. (E.g., Lev. 17:14, 15& Deut. 12:23)
In their arguing the people opposing Jesus pushed beyond the boundary of calm, logical discussion. But Jesus stood firm in his spiritual use of language. Had calmness prevailed, would it have helped them to understand? I don’t know.
Abp. William Temple said, in Readings in St. John’s Gospel, that Jesus let the use of “hard sayings” sift out those who can discern spiritual truth from those who cannot. (Op. Cit. p. 102)
I think that we know Jesus’ references to “eating” and “drinking” his flesh and blood are not be taken literally, or even symbolically. His meaning was spiritual.
By spiritual I do not mean “light and airy”, but “deep and basic.” In our prayer, especially contemplative prayer, spiritual understanding can be reached that truly go beyond literal understanding; and be deeper than what is merely symbolic.
Had those who reacted against Jesus’ words understood Jesus’ meaning, they might have discovered the true intimacy that is offered to us in those same words of Jesus, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.” (Jn 6:56)
When those words, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them” are used in the Holy Eucharist, or when we become conscious of them during times of meditation, or contemplative prayer, then we can hear Jesus’ call to intimacy.
At the end of the Gospel for today (Saturday) Jesus asked his disciples, “Will you also go away?” Peter answered, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (Vv. 66-68)
Does hearing Jesus’ words with the ears of your heart, and knowing their spiritual meaning, help you to know with Peter that Jesus has the words of eternal life, and to experience the intimacy that Jesus desires of us? To which he calls us?
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